A former house designer who had worked in Stowe and the Mad River Valley was sentenced Tuesday to more than 16 years in prison for the sexual exploitation of children and for possessing child pornography — both involving victims under age 12.

Ryan Beaulieu, 45, of Underhill, will also be under federal supervised release terms for 15 years after he completes his prison sentence.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss ordered Beaulieu pay $37,199 in restitution to the victims of the pornography. During the 90-minute hearing, the judge said she would waive the possible fines of up to $250,000 on each case citing his inability to pay.

One of the victims testified at Tuesday’s sentencing about the impact that remains today from the explicit images captured of her while on a 1973 vacation trip to Disney World by a family friend. The suspect was later charged, and she thought the images were destroyed, but she learned many years later they are being shared across the nation. She said she uses restitution funds to help fight pornography.

The case was so severe and graphic the U.S. Department of Justice sent Trial Attorney Eduardo Palomo of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section from Washington to help prosecute the case.

Beaulieu “engaged in a pattern of deliberate, focused criminal conduct,” getting prepubescent children to display their genitals … (he) amassed a collection of thousands of images of child pornography, traded child pornography with members of numerous online groups of pedophiles, and enthusiastically discussed the violent sexual abuse of toddlers and young children,” Palomo said in his sentencing memo.

Palomo told the court Beaulieu used at least a half dozen social media networking programs, including Omegle, which allows for children and adults to connect anonymously because there are no age restrictions on the site.

Beaulieu had 1,995 images of child pornography on his phone and in messages to others indicated he had sexual interest in children as young as 4 years old, court records show. Palomo wrote Beaulieu also reported he was “working on some original content for the group.”

When arrested in July 2020 Beaulieu was on state probation for a reduced charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. The Stowe Reporter noted Beaulieu was initially arrested on a charge of aggravated sexual assault in September 2012 for reportedly sexually abusing a juvenile known to him over several years. Court records indicate that the abuse of the pre-teen girl went on for multiple years.

A state judge eventually imposed a 2-to-5-year prison sentence but suspended all but 30 days and placed Beaulieu on probation. He was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment.

In the latest case, Beaulieu will be required to register as a sex offender when released from federal prison. Beaulieu does not appear on Vermont’s public sex offender registry website for his 2013 state conviction.

Reiss said Beaulieu will get credit for time served since his arrest in July 2020.

Beaulieu, who grew up in Maine, is a 2000 graduate of Norwich University, where he played soccer, was active in student government and majored in architecture. He worked for a design group in the Mad River Valley until 2010 before joining an architectural firm in Stowe.

He could have received a life sentence under the formulas used to calculate penalties under federal sentencing guidelines, but the maximum term allowed by statute was a combined 40 years for the two crimes, officials said.

“Fifteen years is a long time,” Palomo said. “It’s not long enough.”

Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin asked that Beaulieu be allowed to serve his sentence at the federal prison in Devens, Mass., or Danbury, Conn.

The two sides debated whether Beaulieu should get any credit taken off his potential sentence because he recently reported he was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. He claimed it happened while at a weeklong summer basketball camp when he was about 13. It came at the hands of a man involved in local school and youth sports, the defense wrote.

The defense maintained Beaulieu had hidden the incident through the years, but the prosecution questioned why the defendant never mentioned it before, especially when he was analyzed in his earlier lewd conduct case.

The crimes

Homeland Security, the FBI and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office conducted the investigation and arrested Beaulieu after they executed a court-ordered search at his home in July 2020.

Law enforcement seized Beaulieu's laptop from his Underhill home office and a forensic examination showed multiple video files. In one screen recording he sent instructions to three underage girls that led to one of them exposing herself on camera while he completed a sex act, the plea agreement noted.

Two weeks after his arrest, a federal grand jury indicted Beaulieu on four felony child pornography charges from 2020. As the case marched toward trial this spring, Beaulieu took a plea deal.

He pleaded guilty March 29 to one count of sexual exploitation of children and one count of felony possession of child pornography, stemming from the day his home was raided and computers and devices seized.

Two other charges were dismissed as agreed upon in the plea deal.

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